Food Waste/Organics Reduction and Recycling
Patrick Jones: Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s internet web seminar on Food Waste, Organics Reduction, and Recycling. This seminar is sponsored by the EPA’s RCC Web Academy. My name is Patrick Jones, and I will be handling the technical aspects of today’s seminar.
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Today’s seminar will be moderated by Mary Beth Van Pelt. Mary Beth is an Environmental Scientist at EPA’s Region 4 RCRA Division Office. Her attention is primarily focused on organics, specifically the issue of food residuals and how they can be reduced, reused, or recycled. She comes to Atlanta from the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi where she worked to restore and protect the Gulf ecosystems primarily through water quality and agriculture issues.
Before moving to Mississippi she was with the EPA in Chicago dealing with confined animal feeding operations, factory farms. Miss Van Pelt has lived in Georgia, Mississippi, Washington D.C., California, Utah, and Illinois where she assisted her brother with the family farm and raised her children while completing her degrees in biology, botany, and environmental administration. In all areas her focus continues to be on the unique relationship between our natural and cultural heritage as they relate to the environmental economic and social aspects of the agriculture and industry.
With that, we are ready to begin the seminar. I will now turn the time over to the Moderator, Mary Beth. Mary Beth?
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Thank you, Patrick. Greetings, and welcome to the November 2010 edition of the Resource Conservation challenge Web Academy. We are happy to have your participation. This 90-minute monthly education series is hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide training and a networking opportunity to state and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders.
As Patrick mentioned, today’s topic is food waste, organics reduction, and recycling. Before we begin with our speakers I would like to take a couple of minutes to tell you a little bit about the U.S. EPA’s National Organics Materials Task Force issues that we’ve been discussing on a national level recently.
And, Patrick, if you could put-up that graphic on the food recovery hierarchy? I just wanted to discuss this a little bit because there’s been a lot of discussion about this particular hierarchy and the attempt to clarify the role of anaerobic digestion and the hierarchy.
And, as many of you are aware, we’re having more and more waste energy type projects which involves food residuals going towards an energy production facility and how does that work into the hierarchy?
And what we have determined is that the industrial uses heading is where that should fit, and so under industrial uses what has been determined is that that will include providing fat for rendering, providing oil for fuel, food discards for animal feed production, or anaerobic digestion combined with soil amendment production or composting of the residuals.
And so we also want to highlight the fact that the preferred options still make the most of excess food. We are still looking for the highest and best use. We still hope that most people will either have a source reduction or food donations to feed hungry people or that if it truly is leftover food product that can no longer be consumed that it does go towards composting. If food is anaerobically digested for renewable energy production then the residuals can and should be put to a beneficial use to then feed the soil and not to go toward a landfill.
So just wanted you to know that that’s been a very hot topic nationally. And I also wanted to highlight the most recent edition of waste recycling news, the November 8th edition that discussed a little bit about Jonathan Blum’s new book, “American Wasteland,” how America throws away nearly half its food. And just cite the fact that approximately 19% of the waste disposed of in landfills is food waste, and when it can be going in other directions we would like to see it used a little bit higher up on the hierarchy. So just food for thought.
Today we have two very knowledgeable speakers with us, and unfortunately Publix wasn’t able to join us but we sincerely hope that they will be able to participate in the future in other webinars to share their adventures in organics diversion.First, we will hear from Thomas Raymond, who will overview the measures undertaken by the Hormel Foods Corporation to reduce their environmental impacts. And the second presentation will be Andrew Shakman, who founded LeanPath, to provide food residual tracking systems to the hospitality food service and restaurant industry. And after each speaker we will pause and answer one or two hot topics questions. We’ll also have time at the end of the session for other questions submitted by you, our audience. Thanks, again, for participating, and let’s get started.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Our first speaker is Thomas Raymond. Mr. Raymond is the Director of Environmental Sustainability at Hormel Foods, with more than 15 years of experience in environmental management. Tom is responsible for managing the environmental compliance and sustainability efforts for Hormel Foods manufacturing plants. He started his career at Hormel Foods in 2005, and under his guidance the Company has made significant progress toward achieving its environmental sustainability goals.
Tom is a graduate of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and holds a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry and Environmental Studies. He also holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Management from Sanford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and a Law Degree from Seattle University in Seattle, Washington. He is a licensed Attorney in the State of Washington and also in Minnesota.
It’s all yours, Tom. Thank you.
Thomas Raymond: Thank you. And I appreciate the opportunity to have this presentation to put forward. It’s an encouragement to our organization to be able to tell our story and to further engage in the topics related to environmental sustainability and programs, so certainly appreciate it.
I’ll skip through this next slide, the EPA disclaimer. I’ll leave that for your reading pleasure later.
What I wanted to do is to talk to you a little bit about our solid waste programs and how it fits into the sustainability environmental sustainability, environmental sustainability within our organization. And I think to do that it would be important to give you an introduction into the organization and to talk about the environmental sustainability systems and how solid waste actually feeds into the system. We will also be talking then about approaches to solid waste management that have fed into the successes of our organization.
A little bit about our Company. We were founded about 120 years ago. A couple of clips you see on your screen are from our Founder, George A. Hormel. Highest standards of quality are essential to the business and originate, don’t imitate. These two statements ring very true to our organization, not only in the sense of what kind of food products we produce and distribute into commerce, but we can also take those sentences and apply them to our environmental sustainability programs at Hormel Foods, and specifically today as we talk about our solid waste and recycling programs.
First then, and you’ll hear me talk about it a couple times, is the high standards of quality as we’ve built in environmental programs we need to build quality into those just like we would our products and services to make sure they’re robust and have a longevity that we can appreciate. And, secondly, is you originate, don’t imitate. There’s a lot of areas of environmental stewardship, solid waste recycling being one of them, that we can be leaders out on the path.
And not to stand in front of you saying that we are at the front or that we’ve reached the pinnacle, but we do try to strive to originate in our programs, try to do new things better, and that certainly applies to environmental stewardship, as well.
You see we are a U.S. Fortune 500 Company. We’ve exceed $6.5 billion in sales in 2009. We have 34 brands either in their number one or number two in their categories, and more than 18,600 employees. And you can see from the screen that some of some of the best known and trusted brands on the food shelf, either under the Hormel label, itself, or some of the signature products, like Spam or Dinty Moore, or several other products that you may recognize on the shelf but maybe not attribute to Hormel Foods.
And you can see we’re a growing Company with great opportunities. We’ve had several acquisitions since 2001, and some of these, such as Diamond Crystal brands, Century Foods, Markland Foods, some of these are not typically what you would think of as Hormel Food meat products, such as the bacons or hams. We’re talking dry products, seasonings, flavorings, things that have additional challenge, as well as to how do you manage the excess waste from those facilities. So as we continue to grow and expand our profile we have to watch closer and closer as to how we handle waste for these facilities.
You can see a map of our facilities on the screen right now. You can see we have a heavy concentration in the upper Midwest – Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, but we do have significant operations located across the country in California, several in the high desert areas – Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming. And then a fairly good concentration in the southeastern parts of the United States, particularly Georgia.
This also provides us both challenges and opportunities on how we manage waste and residuals, particularly since a lot of our facilities are located in smaller communities and a little bit more distance from some of the technologies that we may want to either be a part of our – or participate in.
But what drives us as a Company is a philosophy, we call Hormel Foods Our Way, and it’s a process that takes in accounts, the people, the actual process, itself, the manufacturing end of it, our products, our performance, and our principles. So we’re looking at a holistic picture from the way the employees interact with the Company, through the products as they reach the shelf, how we perform financially, and most definitely how we perform environmentally, as well. So this program is formalized within our organization and kind of drives the way we strive to improve.
I think it’d be a fair question that a lot of people talk sustainability and what does it mean? And I think it’s a fair thing to talk about that in the context of how does Hormel Foods define it. And we define it generally as creating a long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities, and probably more importantly managing risks related to economic, environmental, and social components.
It’s important to realize this is organizational in nature. This requires the entire community of Hormel Foods. It’s not one person, it’s not one department, this is many departments, many people embracing these opportunities and the risks and having them overlap together.
So when we think about environmental sustainability then we can talk about – rearrange those words a little bit and make this definition of making environmental decisions based on all relevant social, economic, and environmental factors. So really it’s a business case scenario when we’re talking about environmental sustainability, and that certainly will extend to how we approach solid waste programs and recycle programs within our organization. So we’re looking at how not only the environmental factors of that decision, but what are the economic and social factors, and balancing those to the best we can.
And this is a philosophy that has played in our organization for many, many years. Corporate responsibility has been a part of our heritage and our everyday work at Hormel Foods for quite some time, certainly preexisting me. The – at the facilities, you see a photo there from 1974 showing that we had active sustainability and waste reduction programs for many decades before they became formalized.
But what the modern day sustainability programs has allowed us to do is to take what we’ve done and to formulate them, formulate those programs, and to communicate them both internally and externally to the stakeholders. And as a part of that process with sustainability we have a formalized reporting process, a corporate responsibility report, that’s available at hormelfoods.com that gives significant detail on our performance in our Our Way formats, on our people processes and so forth.
But another part of the formal sustainability is establishing and setting goals, and you see some of those goals in front of you regarding energy conservation, water use reduction, solid waste recycling and solid waste minimization, air emissions, packaging, and then some transportation bills.
I have got solid waste minimization highlighted on here for a reason, is originally we started off with a solid waste recycling program goal where we wanted all of our facilities to reach 50% recycling by a target date. And, as you’ll see in a couple slides, we’ve reestablished that goal of solid waste minimization, and I’ll talk a little bit about that in just a second.
But before that, we know solid waste is important to us, and we know we want to measure it and we know we want to set strategies around it. So what we need to do then is to talk about how we’re going to tie everything together. And, for us, that is the global reporting initiative, a worldwide standard for Corporate responsibility and one of the primary drivers that formalizes our program.
And you can see on the screen in front of you there is an aspect for emissions, influx in waste and certainly includes the solid waste category, and specifically talking about the types and rate of waste and the type of disposal method. So this is an area of Corporate communications that you will see in the report that we report out our solid waste disposal numbers.
It’s important for us to make these programs transparent through our Corporate responsibility and sustainability reporting. It’s important for our stakeholders to understand our positioning and it’s important for our internal stakeholders, as well, as they know what we’re striving for and can use that as the measuring stick for success.
You’ll see a picture of our Austin, Minnesota plant in front of you. This is located close to our Corporate Offices. It’s our major manufacturing facility. About 1.3 million square feet. And looking at the solid waste aspect, and granted this is going to be a very simple sized schematic, but essentially you have ingredients and packaging coming in and products going out.
I seem to have trouble advancing the slides right now – but we’ve got products coming out, and part of that is the philanthropy effort. We talked about the hierarchy, about feeding people, and we’ll talk a little bit more about specifics as I go through here, but there certainly is an avenue and a path for products to get into the hands of the needy.
Part of that process is rendering, both on onsite rendering where we have it and where we do not have onsite rendering to have waste go to offsite rendering facilities. And we’ll talk about that in a little bit, as well.
Traditional recycling programs at these facilities, here we’re talking about your standard corrugated aluminum, paper, plastics recycling programs. Certainly important for solid waste in that area.
Alternative use, so what products do we have that are not being recycled, rendering, or actual products going out to commerce or philanthropy, those type wastes, what ones can we get into an alternative use scenario. And we’ll talk about a couple of those examples.
And then wasted energy, both specific to our partners and the communities, and another specific example that we’ll cover a little bit later on.
And then, of course, the bottom of the rung for us is landfill, any ton that goes to landfill really is a measure of inefficiency in the process, itself, so the driver is is to reduce the landfill and move tonnage up the scale, waste energy alternative use, recycle it, rendering or, more importantly, make it into a product that has a use in both in commerce and through philanthropy methods.
And I wanted to throw this one on, as well. I guess we wouldn’t typically consider wastewater as a solid waste aspect but it certainly is in the context that we pull fats, oils, and greases, other solids out through our pretreatment systems and have to handle that as a waste treatment, as well. And we do water and wastewater on very much the same way as we do solid waste, is that is a product that we’re not using efficiently as we should, and any wastewater loss is the same category of landfill in our book. It’s a measure of inefficiency in that process.
And I won’t cover this chart too much given that the – we’ve already looked at it. But kind of just making a sanity check for ourselves, are we meeting the food hierarchy and our general approach? And I think we do a pretty good job. Certainly source reduction is an area that we highlight. We do put a lot of effort into feeding hungry people and then feeding animals, particularly through rendering process that we translate to animal feed, but also directly, and we’ll cover that in another slide. And then industrial uses, composting, and certainly the bottom of our hierarchy is landfill, as well.
There’s a waste reduction bill, an important part of sustainability programs is setting a goal and communicating that goal. And we did that a few years back. We set a 10% reduction goal by the year 2011, 2% per year on average for each facility and for the Corporation as a whole, using base year 2006, so everything we measured was from that base year [going to 2007] and then expiring in this next year 2011.
And we felt it was important to normalize this figure for production so that we could measure the true efficiencies of our operations. So, for instance, if we purchase facilities we will add them on to our baseline year and measure that as an efficiency of production. If we eliminate a facility ether by sale or a merger into another facility we will eliminate that from our baseline, as well, so we don’t give the impression that we’ve reduced waste from a – without having a normalized production process. So we feel we’re giving a fairly true representation of our solid waste minimization efforts that way.
Solid waste to landfill, you’re seeing the results in front of you, 2006 we’re at 19.58 pounds of solid waste per thousand pounds of production, that’s to landfill. And you can see in 2007 and in 2008 we had nice decreases, and then in 2009 we had a significant decrease. And this is where I want to get back to the point of where we switch from solid waste, recycling to solid waste minimization.
In that 2007 timeframe we started to see folks that were having recycling numbers that were either staying fairly steady or even sliding a bit, and what we found was that they ended up improving the process to the point that they would eliminate some cardboard waste and some plastic waste that were being recycled. And we felt, you know, that’s the behavior we want to encourage is waste minimization and not necessarily penalize, if you would, for having a reduction of waste that was in the recycle stream.
So we switched that goal to solid waste reduction, solid waste minimization, realizing that landfill is the last place we want to be, so anywhere from there is a benefit. And what we saw I think was in that 2008 to 2009 timeframe when we were able to re-communicate that philosophy to the operations that they responded with tremendous effort in looking beyond recycling efforts and looking into alternative use avenues, and we saw a couple of big projects where people thought, well, you know, I don’t need to handle this this way, we can do it a different way, and it really drove some significant reductions.
So we have already met the goal by 2009. I fully expect that goal to be met by our 2011 deadline. I’d like to see some improvement on where we’re at now. In the true concept of sustainability the results are only sustainable if they last, and I think we’re, based on the 2009 projections that we have we are certainly on course to make that reduction last.
So now I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the source reduction activities that we have. And you see on your screen an example of our source reduction, and it really starts at the packaging end of the equation. This is an example of our Hormel bacon bits, where we’ve made some significant changes. One is by changing where we source it from, and although this is not a solid waste component it does go into the thinking behind this, is that we move the production of that glass, move the facility that’s providing it to us 630 miles closer to the production facility so you had less transportation of that primary input product to the plant.
But, more importantly from the solid waste perspective, is we take a fraction of an ounce out of that jar and great work out of our Packaging Department to test the strength of that glass, whether it can hold through transportation and through commerce and through the consumer use and maintain the product quality. They reduced the glass just a fraction of an ounce, and what it did, a very, very small change reduced the pounds of glass per year by 411,000 pounds. And that – the change resulted in 11 truckloads reduced per year on shipping of that material.
And what that does for us is it impacts the solid waste minimization up and down the supply chain, so there you have an example where you have 411,000 pounds of glass less per year, it affects the waste generation at the glass manufacturing and all the input supplies to that. It affects the waste potential within the plant, itself. And then as the packaging goes to the consumer it reduces their waste potential, as well, the more we can take out of that product.
I could go on and probably more importantly I could have our Packaging Group here to discuss successes that they’ve had in this arena for quite a long time. They have worked hard at this, and they’ve had a lot of success at waste minimization at the source, itself. So having less waste come into the facility and packaging and ingredients and, thusly, less in the manufacturing footprint and less to the consumer themselves.
And philanthropy, we talked about getting food to the right spots, and we have our food out in commerce, obviously. But one of the big activities that Hormel Foods has been involved in is the partnership with Feeding America, and that formerly America’s Second Harvest. We’ve been partnering with that Group for more than 30 years as a Company, and have tremendous donations in food to the needy, getting many meals to hundreds of thousands of people. And there’s lots of examples like our activity with Feeding America.
And I would ask you to go to our Corporate responsibility report. You can find it through hormelfoods.com, and you’ll see additional information about other activities that we’ve done in the philanthropy area. I think it’s an important piece of our organization and certainly an area that we’ve had a lot of success with and are going to continue doing.
Rendering, we talked about that being a big piece of the puzzle, and in a traditional sense of rendering we have onsite rendering at a few of our facilities and we have offsite rendering, privately owned rendering that we’ll send product to. And that is – I think they’ve referred to themselves in other presentations that I’ve seen as one of the original recyclers. And although we’d like to see this food get into products and in the commerce and in philanthropy, when it’s inedible and cannot make it into those areas rendering is a very nice option as you can produce animal feeds and a host of other beneficial products through the rendering process.
And then we also have direct shipments of feed for animal feed, so not through the rendering process but we will have certain waste organic streams that can go directly to feed animals at farm systems. So where appropriate and where we have the correct waste stream for that we engage in that activity, as well. So both feed sources through rendering and then directly to the animal supply.
Traditional recycling you saw is a big part of what we do. Solid waste minimization, it’s one of the original drivers in our environmental programs dating back many decades, the traditional recycling. That 1974 article I showed you, if you could see that whole article you would see tips about all sorts of environmental matters, some 35 years ago talking about recycling in parts, and that has always been driven into the culture. So we have traditional corrugated, glass and plastics. And then activities that we haven’t traditionally added into our recycling metrics but certainly go to recycle, such as our scrap metal, wood pellets and other materials, such like that.
And what we do is try to drive that behavior through a process called our Environmental Sustainability Best of the Best. It’s a three-year-old process right now. And what we do is we have our manufacturing facilities submit projects to the Corporate Office on environmental sustainability, so that could either be by energy reduction, wastewater reduction, water reduction, or solid waste minimization.
And you can see last year our winner was at Diamond Crystal brands in Savannah, Georgia. And they went on solid waste reduction, and they did that in large part through recycling programs. And what they did is education and motivation at a very high level. They got everybody engaged in the facility. They had educational programs. They had looped videos in the break rooms discussing the importance of the program.
You can’t see it very well in the picture but they’re standing in front of what they have, the greenhouse, it’s in their break area, and they drove results in a big time way. They had a 35% decrease in their solid waste figures and a 40% improvement in their recycle rates. And these numbers are holding out through 2010, so there’s sustainable results that they’re getting out of the facility.
And part of that recognition comes from the Corporate Office through this Best of the Best Program, but to give credit to the site they realize that recognition was important in their progress. So what they did is took revenues from this program and reinvested it into their common areas, so some television for their break rooms and other avenues. So it was a project we were very proud of as a Corporation and the site was very proud of it, and they should have been.
Okay, well, now we’re going to talk a little bit about some alternative use of the organic products coming from the facility. One of the biggest items we have is land application of waste. And that adds as a nutrient supplement to the fields that they’re being applied in. We have both liquid land applications in certain cases, but more importantly we have the organic land application. And we have this at several locations across the country, multiple locations and multiple waste streams, including pretreatment solids, vegetable waste that can’t be processed or brought for animal feed, and the manure from systems that have manure management in place.
And what it does is it eliminates, of course, manufactured nutrients on the field. So we eliminate all the waste inherent with that manufacturing. And what it is is about 50% of our generated waste volumes if you were to exclude the weight of our rendering operations, so it’s a significant amount of solid waste generated at our facilities. And it’s applied in a very beneficial way. And we do it at a cost of about 50% of landfill tipping fees, so not only are we providing a beneficial product land application but we’re also doing it with a strong economic benefit to the organization.
And over the next series of slides we’ll kind of walk you through what this might look like on the field. Here we see a frontend loader, loading some of that waste you saw in the first slide into a spreader. The spreader will typically run across the feed, and you can see off the backend the material being land applied. And that’s what a stretch of the land might look like after a pass-through of that land application, so you can see it kind of blends right into the soil, it becomes a valuable nutrient feed to the soil, soil supplement.
And this is what we like to see out of the end product is a healthy field of corn, a healthy field of soybeans, and before I get off that topic and go into solid waste utilization, I do want to add a point about land application, two points really. One is it a heavily regulated activity, as well it should be, so facilities that engage in land application need to be prepared to handle that appropriately, so looking at how you’re going to manage the regulatory side of it and make sure that compliance remains an important piece of the puzzle. As we have long stated in our sustainability programs, compliance is kind of the platform to talk about sustainability, so we must make sure that the systems remain in compliance with all regulations.
And the second point I want to make is to perform due diligence on your partners that you’re engaging with, whether that be land application or anything else. That’s monitored very closely and make sure that you’re engaging with partners that you can trust and rest assured that they’re going to act with the same principles and practices that you would expect if you were doing it yourself.
Now waste to energy, I mentioned kind of two avenues. One is incineration over landfill at local municipality waste to energy facilities. I think we’re fans of that. As Hormel I’d rather see waste be burnt for energy than I would landfill, realizing that neither one of them is our primary option but if we’ve got to – if we have the option waste to energy is better than landfill, in my opinion.
And then in the second sense biomass burning. And the picture you see there and the article that comes up is regarding a facility in Minnesota, Benson, Minnesota, called [Fiber Amend]. It was the first biomass power plant in the United States. And, in part, the stock that goes into this biomass incinerator is turkey litter, which is a mixture of turkey waste and bedding that’s taken from turkey growers. And we are, through our turkey store subsidiary we are – supply our litter to the Benson Facility, the Fiber Amend Facility, for waste incineration. Not without a drawback, it is competition for the land application. There is certainly a demand for that same material for land application to replace nutrients so there is a bit of a balance on that equation. But certainly a beneficial way to handle that.
And I think at the beginning there was discussion on anaerobic digestion, and anaerobic digestion is actually a big part of our operations, as well. Austin, Minnesota, Des Moines, and a few other locations that we have, the municipalities themselves will have the digester capacity to address the processing of high organics strength waste, fats, oil, and greases from our processes, generating electricity through combined heat and power units and being utilized directly for process and building heat. So definitely an area that we would like to engage in where we can. Certainly has some beneficial aspects. Des Moines producing quite a bit of natural gas for their processes, and also in the City of Austin, Minnesota. It’s a reasonable approach economically, as well, so you’ve got the energy production plus you have a reasonable economic payback.
And but one of the issues for us is the centrality of the digester systems. A lot of operations are smaller and could not run digesters independently, so we’ve got to look for partner facilities. And in the case of the two municipalities I’ve mentioned we’ve got facilities that have the capacity and can easily handle those wastes through the digester, so we try to take advantage of those type partnerships and look at engaging other communities as we do wastewater, and that’s about can we partner in that same type process.
And then, lastly, I want to talk about the culture of sustainability, and that kind of brings everything home, as key to reducing waste within the boundary, itself, whether you’re talking about energy, water, solid waste, particularly organic waste, it doesn’t really matter. What you’re doing is you’re building a key piece of your business, and you can easily restate that as improved efficiency in the operations. So for those that cannot resonate with we want to reduce waste you can have them resonated as you’re improving your operational efficiency because each one of those environmental aspects is a measure of operational efficiency.
And our goal through that process is to continually review the technology available, applications, and then to focus on the due diligence and our review of partners. Because what we want to do is engage with people that are going to have the same philosophies and understandings that we are, and we’re going to want to engage in technologies and practices that will be sustainable for the organization, benefit the environment, benefit hopefully economically, and also to have a social aspect benefit, as well, so being good to our neighbors in the process.
With that, I thank you, and I will turn it back over to the Moderator.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Thank you very much, Tom. Excellent, excellent. And it reminded me of what one of the big venues that I work with here in Atlanta has told me, and that is since you started with recycling in 1974 that they say recycling is a gateway project which leads to increased awareness of other areas, like energy and water. So it looks like Hormel has followed that same path. And, you know, as you move down that sustainability road just more and more projects keep coming up, I’m sure, always just thinking of new ways to be more innovative.
A couple of questions have come in. Let’s see, first of all, and you touched on this a bit that maybe you could go into a little more detail about how did you share sustainability goals and objectives with all of your employees? You talked a little bit about your Savannah Facility and the Best of the Best Program and the incentives for the employees, but how did you – how do you really get them onboard and so that they’re not only doing what’s asked of them but being innovative?
Thomas Raymond: Yes, stepping back a little bit, our sustainability program really started to formulate around 2006, and that’s when we started having discussions about what does sustainability actually mean? We’ve always had recycle programs in the traditional sense. We’ve always focused on reducing water and energy, but we had trouble defining it.
And our Corporate Communications Group is the primary driver in this area and assisted in formulating a formal communications process that involves several aspects, starting with internal communication through our intranet website where we could start to communicate what does sustainability mean, what are the things that we’re targeting, what are the goals, and then developing a Corporate responsibility report that we could share externally with our investors, with our customers, and with other partners that are interested in our activities, getting that information out.
We had an initial Corporate responsibility report go out in I believe 2006, and since then we’ve had annual reports go out. And if you go to the hormelfoods.com website you’re going to see the 2009 version that’s currently out, and you’ll see that we evolved that reporting to a – I think what is, could be considered a gold standard for reporting. It’s a very, very nice communication. So that’s available to all through the website, both internal and external.
We have developed other communication methods, sustainability posts, that can go and have gone directly to customers and communicated to our employees. We have company magazines that we include information on. And most recently we have a 2011 calendar that goes out throughout our organization, and this year’s theme on the calendar is environmental sustainability and sustainability programs in whole. So those goals are reinstated in that communication, as well.
So you really have got to work with your communication experts at your locations and facilities, rely on their expertise, and then just blitz the communication out and make it frequent and often. We try to get articles regularly posted on our intranet site about environmental activities, environmental projects.
Now the Sustainability Best of the Best Program started three years ago as a spinoff to our larger Best of the Best Project Program, where we look at the Companywide aspect about who’s got the biggest hitting projects, the most innovative, the best teamwork, the best results. A lot of factors go into the judging. And we make a fairly large presentation, a large recognition for that. The winners come to the Annual Shareholders Meeting for presentations, as well. So it’s a big piece of competition. I think nothing kind of stirs innovation more than competition, so the more we can get folks thinking about that the better.
And then we also have regular environmental conferences that we have, and we just had one a few weeks back, a Corporate wide environmental conference, where we get sustainability information and talk to the plant personnel one-on-one through those training sessions and help them train the trainer and have them bring that back to their facilities. Really it’s kind of the carpet-bombing affect of environmental sustainability. We look for all sorts of options to get that communication out.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Excellent. Now, several questions about food donations, and I – knowing that this webinar was advertised nationally to the Restaurant Association and also to large venue hospitality operations, I would like to point out that there is a Good Samaritan Law, a National Good Samaritan Law. that promotes food recovery and it does limit the liability of donors. There the liability to donors, as long as the food is donated in good faith is minimal or nonexistent. To my knowledge it has never been tested in the courtroom and so as far as liability that is not an issue.
Another question for you, Tom, are any of your materials going into biofuel production?
Thomas Raymond: No, we do not currently have materials into the biofuels market right now.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Okay, that was fast. And I’d also like to pass along a compliment from Olaf in Region 9 who says, “I applaud Hormel to normalize the data on solid waste, in other words pounds of waste per product.” And I agree with that, standardized measurements are a constant issue in our business, and so thank you very much for that.
There are more questions and, hopefully, we can get to those after our next speaker, but thank you very much, Tom, appreciate it.
Thomas Raymond: Thank you.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Our second speaker today is Andrew Shakman, and Mr. Shakman is Cofounder and President and CEO of LeanPath, Incorporated. This is a technology Company providing food waste tracking systems to the food service and hospitality industries. LeanPath systems help food service operators prevent and minimize food waste over time.
Andrew is a primary contributor to the food waste focus blog and speaks frequently at food service industry events. Previously Andrew was President of Nine Dots, a technology Firm serving food clients, including Nestle, Quaker Oats, and Dole Food Company. He holds a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the University of Southern California. Mr. Shakman?
Andrew Shakman: Mary Beth, thank you. And good afternoon and good morning depending upon where everyone is today. I want to echo Tom’s comment and thank you for having me here today.
We’re going to in my portion of the webinar take a turn away from the manufacturing world and into the food service operations world. And what that really means is that I’m going to be speaking toward issues around food waste management related to source reduction in food service and restaurants and hospitality environments, so really at the point where those products are just about to reach a consumer or a guest or a customer, that’s where we find that there’s a lot of food waste that occurs. And some of that is preconsumer food waste and some of it is postconsumer, but depending upon where you’re looking at it in the operation. But certainly food service has a major role to play in reducing food waste, and so that’s what we’re going to talk about here in my section.
As Mary Beth said, I’m with LeanPath, and we’re a technology Company. We make food waste tracking systems, and by virtue of doing so we’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of data over a number of years longitudinally on what happens in food service around food waste production, and so we have kind of a unique vantage point from a data perspective of what’s actually occurring empirically and also just understanding what are many of the cultural, social behavioral operational challenges that are facing food service that can lead to waste. Because in many cases food service is largely about how we get a team of several hundred people to row together, that’s largely the driver on waste, as opposed to perhaps establishing certain procedures or policies that can be repeated over and over. In many cases food service operators have great policies but the challenge is to deliver and execute on them every day in a consistent way.
So that’s where we’re going in this portion of the conversation, and I thought I’d start with a picture of a volume food service operation. And this is something that may be familiar to folks who are on the webinar today. It’s just a kitchen, it could be anywhere, serving a lot of food. The point I want to make, though, is that there is a very solid element in the middle of this kitchen which your eye will be drawn to here if it hasn’t been already, which is the elephant standing in the middle of the room.
And the elephant in the middle of the room for most food service operations is food waste. It’s something that is so pervasive that we’ve come to expect it and live with it and work around it. And so one of the biggest challenges is to bring focus and attention to this topic, and Tom addressed that in his presentation about once you start bringing measurement and data and having a focused program people start to see opportunities that maybe they didn’t see before.
And so the reality in food service is it’s not just one elephant standing in the room, we actually have many of them. And there are numerous places and eddies in our operations where food waste occurs, whether it’s due to overproduction, spoilage, expiration, trim waste, things that have been dropped, burned, contaminated in the post consumer side of the operation, plate waste. So there’s lots and lots of different scenarios where food waste occurs, and the challenge is how do we source reduce that?
And what I thought I’d do today is first talk just a little bit about from a food service operator’s perspective why organic waste matters and then what they can do in the realm of source reduction. And so the case for waste management from a food service operations perspective is really threefold.
The first element is environmental, and we’ve heard a fair amount about this today, and in general I think the conversation on food waste and food residuals has become much more sophisticated and people have come to understand much more about it which is great. There’s also some great books out. Mary Beth referenced Jonathan Blum’s “American Wasteland,” which was just released and I think is a great resource for all of us.
But when you think about the impacts from food waste there’s really sort of two directions that it occurs environmentally. One is upstream from the food service operation, environmental impacts that occur before the food ever arrives there, and then downstream there’s all the impacts that occur based on where the food goes.
And so I think a lot of times food service operators can visualize or imagine the downstream and they can imagine the downstream, they have some accountability or responsibility for understanding where their food waste is going, but often I think they don’t think enough about the upstream part.
And when you think about the upstream that really means just understanding that when you throw-away a simple Panini that was overproduced and you put it in the garbage that you’re really looking just at the tip of the iceberg, you’re not seeing the whole story all the way back to the point where those farm inputs are occurring and then all of the transportation and storage and preparation and production. And by the time we throw-away a modest Panini that has been invested with a tremendous amount of energy and environmental impact, and we’re really just seeing the residual element of that.
So the first step I think is just sort of waking people up to the idea that as we throw things away we are creating a ripple and a burden on the food system, and we all know that the food system does produce emissions to oil, pardon me, not to oil but to air, to soil, and to water. And so to the extent that food service operations can reduce the amount they’re throwing away that places less burden upstream.
And then downstream it’s also become pretty well understood that when we put food waste into landfills, as we’re doing right now for all but about 2.5% of the waste stream for food, you know, well over 95% of it is going into landfills according to the EPA data. So we know when it goes into those landfills it is breaking down anaerobically, and it’s producing methane and we know that that’s undesirable on a bunch of levels. So if we can prevent and minimize food waste we can have an impact on that downstream, as well.
So from that food service operator’s point of view, standing there at that pivot point between receiving the product from an upstream source and then moving it forward down to a – some sort of waste resolution, the operator has a significant role to play.
And then, secondly, there’s a financial case. And, again, as Tom mentioned, anything that’s going to be sustainable over time has to be not just environmentally and socially sustainable but economically sustainable. And in this case there’s a tremendous alignment around food waste and operator financials, and we know that there are, really that the food business is a tight margined business and restaurants and food service limited bottom line. And it’s certainly an environment where costs are always going up or should we say often going up, year-to-year there may be some changes but the trend lines show straight lines up.
And yet some of those critical margin dollars are being bled-off into waste, and there’s several ways that we’re investing in waste, it’s not just the cost of raw materials that we’re buying. So if we throw-away a pan of lasagna it’s not just the cost of the lasagna, we’re also throwing away the labor cost that was invested in preparing that product, we’re throwing away the energy that went into all of the refrigeration, preparation, cooking, holding of that product, and then there’s the disposal cost, as well.
So when a food service operator looks at this question of waste it hopefully stands out very, very prominently as low-hanging fruit because there’s no other part of a food service operation where we’re paying three to four times for something that’s producing no economic value. And in this kind of a tight margin cost escalating business this is something to go after.
And what we find is that somewhere between 4% and 10% of the food that is purchased in volume food service ends up as preconsumer food waste. And so what that implies is that for every million dollars of food that is purchased somewhere between $40,000 and $100,000 is going into the garbage at the preconsumer level.
And what’s important is how does that preconsumer level how is the stuff that the food service operator has influence over. It’s overproduction and spoilage and expiration, it’s not out of their reach, it’s not beyond their control. This is something that they can impact. And so there’s this really [inelegant] alignment between the environmental and the financial consequences of food waste, where if we can source reduce that food waste we save big dollars and we have a big environmental impact.
And then, lastly, there’s an opportunity around staff engagement. And the key to a successful food service operation clearly is having a team that’s engaged, that leads to customer satisfaction, it leads to safe food, it leads to quality, and the question, of course, is how do you consistently engage a team?
And in my experience I have found that food service employees are very averse to food waste. And I’ll never forget being in a large kitchen in New York once and I was introduced to the pot washer, and he said to me, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” And I said, “I’m here to help you reduce food waste.” And I really didn’t know what kind of response I’d get, whether he would sort of ignore this or whether he’d, you know, what he would do.
And he looked at me and there was a pause and then he said, “Well, it’s about time.” And he went on to tell me how on his day off he volunteered at his church, and how he always thought about the amount of food that he threw-away at his work and saw thrown-away at his work and the good that it could do for his church community and it really resonated with him.
And that story, not the exact story but the sentiment has been repeated over and over again in my travels through the food service business, that frontline food service workers by and large do not like waste and given the opportunity to focus on it they get engaged. And it also commences a conversation around quality, safety, sanitation, a whole number of topics, just production efficiency and excellence. Once you’re talking about food waste the conversation very quickly ripples out to all of the source root causes for why that food waste is happening, and it begets a series of conversations that are about improvement in excellence.
So the first domino in engaging a team can often be a waste management initiative, and Mary Beth mentioned that earlier just in reference to how waste can be a gateway into and recycling can be a gateway into dealing with energy and water. Well, it can also be a gateway into staff engagement. So those are really three important reasons to care about food waste if you’re in the food service world, it’s money, it’s the environment, and it’s your team, and those are on everybody’s top five list.
So the question, of course, is where do you start? And we’ve seen the hierarchy today on two occasions, and I will – I don’t want to disappoint, so it’s in my presentation, too. And this is just such a powerful narrative tool that it helps people understand really amongst a whole series of tactics and things that we might do around food waste what are the things that are most favorable to least favorable? And how do we prioritize ourselves?
And what we find is that in many cases in food service the first topic of conversation is often composting, and the reason for that is because it’s so tangible, people can put their hands around it, they can see it. And, of course, it is a very high value thing but it’s not at the top of the hierarchy.
And the challenge is how do we get people to focus on source reduction? How do we convey that when we just deal with composting or something, or landfill at the bottom of the hierarchy we’re really not fully addressing the problem. It’s kind of like coming into our kitchen and finding a giant gusher of water pouring out of the wall, and the first thing we do is we go get our mop. And, of course, that’s not what we want to do. We want to turn-off the water or cut-down the flow as much as we can and then deal with the consequences of where to send that.
So source reduction is the key, and but it is often overlooked just because of that lack of tangibility. And also I think many operators look at this and they’re not sure what the tool is in their toolkit to address this problem because everyone says, “Yes, I like the idea of prevention and avoidance and minimization of food waste, but I’m running a business and other than just keeping my eyes on the trash and trying to correct behavior when I see things happening that shouldn’t what can I do to consistently systematically deal with source reduction?”
And so that’s where I’m going to direct the rest of my discussion today is really what are some of the things we can do. And what this slide shows is that there are many, many strategies and tactics out there, and this is really just an illustration of some of them organized according to the various tiers of the hierarchy, moving from left to right, looking at reduce, reuse, industrial uses, compost, disposal.
And you’ll find that there’s a cluster of initiatives down at the disposal level that will get a lot of attention, whether it’s onsite digesters, aerobic digesters in that case, deyhydrators, pulpers, scrap collectors, and those things all have merit and value. But you’ll see that there’s been a lot of development there. There’s a lot fewer options as you move-up higher up in the hierarchy, and so what are those tools that we can work on the source reduction level?
And the first one I’m going to spend some time on is food waste tracking, and the reality is that you can’t do source reduction without data. How can you begin to report on minimization if you don’t know where you began and can’t compare where you are today to that starting point? So it’s critical in a food service operation to track food waste, and preconsumer food waste really needs to be tracked on a regular daily basis because menus change, staff members change, operations seasons, customer counts change.
So we need to know what’s going on in our operation the same way we manage tracking temperatures for HACCP, or hazard analysis and critical control point procedures for the – you know, it’s the same concept, we want to be tracking those temperatures for food safety and we have to do it every day to make sure we’re not off course. The same thing is true with food waste.
So when we track we get baselines. We also, of course, get a tremendous amount of diagnostic information that allows us to find the root causes of waste, because most kitchens are generating, it depends on the menu they’re serving but they may be generating many, many different products. In fact, some kitchens, those in big institutions that have menus that change every day, they’re like little manufacturing plants that are producing about 1,200 different products per month. And so understanding which of those products are leaving the greatest amount of waste is a challenge.
So by tracking food waste there’s an opportunity to diagnose it and really get right in there and find those problems. And, of course, tracking raises employee awareness, and that happens in two ways. One is the process of tracking, itself, should be something that’s done by everyone on a food service team, anyone who is throwing something away should be accountable for tracking it, which makes a point that maybe that item couldn’t be – could be avoided, that the discard could be avoided. And then the feedback group occurs when the data comes back around which raises awareness.
There’s also the opportunity once you’re tracking to share that data with guests and food service and depending on the operation you’re in if you have guests that come back over and over again, like a college or a hospital where you have the same population, you have a chance to raise awareness and get people to help on the postconsumer waste side. And data allows for accountability, how are we doing against our goals? And for benchmarking externally, how are we doing against other operations?
So source reduction and data and tracking, which provides the data, are really two sides of the same coin. You can’t claim you’re doing waste prevention without data. So once you have that data, as I alluded to a moment ago, that creates feedback loops and feedback loops focus behavior and they drive change.
And we all can reflect on what happens when we get an expensive energy bill at home, whether it’s for heating or it’s for air-conditioning and we – our eyes pop wide open and we think, “How did that happen?” And then we say, “Okay, next month I’m going to change something.” And we change the thermostat and we watch the results benefit us as we do that, and it’s the same thing if we can put data up on food waste on a weekly basis or even a daily basis in a kitchen we create awareness.
So when that focus occurs and that behavior change occurs the areas that people have impact is they purchase more accurately, meaning they bring in the right amount of product at the right times, they produce more accurately, which means actually not overproducing, trying to understand demand curves. They may change production methods because there may be some production methods that are very wasteful versus others that are not, and it’s just a question of which is the most efficient way to go. Sometimes there may be menu items that are high waste items that if they’re beloved by customers, well, maybe we tolerate that, but if they’re not we may look at changes.
And, of course, it’s focusing the behavior of the staff when they’re managing fresh product are they trimming carefully? When they’ve got a tomato in their hands are they lopping off the top third or are they coring it? What type of care is going into handling the food?
And improving communication? Because we know that in food service it’s a big team effort. You’ve got a lot of people working a lot of elements, and getting people to communicate around how much are we going through, how much do we need, getting people to batch cook and not just in a batch size of one, which is kind of what I joke about. Often people say they’re batch cooking and they’re doing one big batch, but actually smaller batches that meet demand, all of that relies on good communication.
So we know at the end of the day we manage the things we measure, and if we don’t track what we’re throwing away in food service we really don’t know what is going on and how to improve it and we’re really guessing. So tracking is critical and is “the” critical enabling move towards source reduction.
So the question often arises great tracking, how do we do it? And the answer is that there’s a number of ways to do it, and I’ll share a few of them with you today. On the preconsumer, well, first of all, you have to decide are you going to go after preconsumer or postconsumer. And I mentioned earlier that preconsumer is something that deserves to be tracked on a daily basis because of the high impact financially and environmentally and the ability to influence change and the fact that menus often change.
Postconsumer is something that you may track more periodically just to get a sense of what’s going on with volumes and to try to raise guest awareness and maybe understand certain items that have higher menu acceptance versus others.
The dynamics between pre and post are quite different. With preconsumer it’s usually occurring because of overproduction, spoilage, expiration, trim. It’s having to do with poor communication, people not following recipes, not following forecasts. Whereas the postconsumer is usually happening because of our portion sizes, because of behavior by guest, how much food they’re taking or asking for, what type of service style we have, whether it’s self-serve or if it’s in a college or a buffet environment, whether it’s got trays or it’s trayless.
So the reasons why we have these different types of waste are quite different, so they have to be managed differently as different waste streams. If you think of it all as one it’s going to be really hard to find solutions that fit.
The preconsumer is inherently separated to begin with by food types so it’s easy to track, and you can have a really large and direct cost impact from that. And it’s controlled largely by behavior from the food service team, whereas that postconsumer waste is comingled. The cost impact varies by the operation, and it – the behavior change and the control has to require both work by the food service team and guests. So often food service operators will be wise to go after preconsumer food waste first, simply because it’s the more controllable, accessible stream.
So when you’re tracking preconsumer waste you’re going to be tracking overproduction, things you made too much of. Spoilage, which are things that actually turned bad on you. Expired or dated items, which may or may not have spoiled. In most cases they’re just – they’ve reached their expiration date and they can’t continue to be used. And then trim, which would be your trim from meat, as well as produce. Occasionally you’ll have those contaminated and burned and dropped items.
And what you want to do is find a place where you’re already aggregating organic waste in your kitchen or food service operation. There’s usually a compost bin or a trash can or a pulper or something where that food is going and you just want to make that you’re tracking area.
And the key things to record, you want to have some initials of who recorded it and when, and then you want to know what item it was and you can either do that by general category, say produce or meat or dairy, or very specifically, it’s up to you how much detail you want, and then what the reason was it was thrown-away.
And it’s very important to know the reason because if you don’t know that it’s hard to understand what the solution might be. It’s a very different solution if it’s spoilage versus overproduction. And then your unit of measure is important to know, too. Either pounds or number of pans of something or a count of an item you want to have some unit of measure so you can add it up and get some totals.
And then if you’re more ambitious you may want to track where the food came from, exactly where it’s going, is it being donated, is it being composted, is it going into a grinder, is it going into a pulper, what day part it came from. If you’re doing catering you may want to connect it to a catering event order numbers, et cetera. So there’s a variety of things if you’re ambitious on things you may want to do more of.
And so how people are doing this, there’s really three ways that it’s occurring. One is tried and true old paper logbooks, which have been around. Many folks in food service are very familiar with this, and the idea here is that you’re just going to write things down. It gives you pretty low levels of detail but still the act of writing it down is critical.
You can also do software and paper, which are well suited for operations that want to track things on paper but then want to have the benefit of software to provide additional information and trends and analysis, sort of deeper helpful insights.
Or you can go to full automation, which involves things like touch screen terminals connected to scales where people are literally weighing food before it goes into the garbage, and that’s for higher volume operations and gives the maximum amount of detail. It’s also probably the easiest for people to use with higher return just because you’ve got a lot more data being recorded.
And so a couple of examples of this, this is a basic paper logbook. There’s a version of this that’s embedded in the EPA, and so if you want to track, start tracking food waste tomorrow or even today this is right there and you can go get that from epa.gov/foodscraps and it’s right in there and is a great resource.
If you’re looking at software there are commercial alternatives out there, and there are some examples here where you’ve got logbooks that have been designed that are a little bit more sophisticated tracking sheets than just that basic tracking sheet. It helps kind of group by food categories or loss categories just to make the data input process quicker. And the way the software examples work is literally you bring those paper sheets back and you type it in, not type it in but pick it from a pick list and put the data right into the system. And then the benefit of that is you get the ability to look back at trends and see things that have been going on.
Full automation, this is an example of what full automation looks like, where you’ve got scales and touch screen terminals, and people are literally putting the food right on a scale before they throw it away. And then they’re entering in by pressing some buttons on a touch screen what food it is they’re discarding, and they’re getting some feedback in – on what the value of the item was so they know right away what happened, and that can be an eye-opening thing when they see that every day they’re throwing away $4 worth of eggs or $6 worth of rice. And, again, that allows them to see the most wasted foods and automatically produce reports.
So food waste tracking is a very high impact source reduction thing, to the strategy. And so if a food service operator wants to reduce at the source data has got to be key to the plan and tracking is going to play a role.
The next element is production systems, and production systems refer to computer systems that handle things, like purchasing recipes, menus, production sheets, inventory management. There’s a lot of commercial tools out there. Sometimes people make their own with pieces of paper, Excel spreadsheets, et cetera. Whatever the approach is that people take these are really critical tools, and it’s in my view essential for food service operations to have some amount of production system automation going on around recipes and menus. Otherwise you’re going to have people guessing, trying to scale their own recipes based on the number of the people they think are coming to dinner. They’re going to be purchasing without the benefit of understanding the forecast and the demands.
And so for a whole bunch of reasons you want these tools, and it’s important to remember, though, that just having a good production system doesn’t sort of exempt you from needing to track food waste. And the reason for that is that the production system will give you a roadmap for what you should be producing, food waste tracking will tell you what you’re actually producing and whether or not people’s behavior in the kitchen is consistent with the production plan.
And, unfortunately, often you will see as is pretty common, you know, there’ll be a production plan but people will deviate from it, often materially. You know, whether the production may call for eight pounds of ground beef but if the roll of ground beef is a 10 pound package they’re going to put 10 pounds in, and suddenly your food cost is off and you’ve got more product than you needed. And that happens pretty regularly. There’s also people don’t want to run-out of food, so they often will make more just so they don’t end up getting caught where they have to rush and scramble. So you have to kind of deal with some of those cultural things that are out there
Looking at retail practices is also important, and for some reason I’m seeing that my screen is not being shared. Let’s see, hopefully that fixed it for everybody. Retail practices are another area that are very important to look at. If you do have retail food service operations you want to make sure that you’re looking at your grab-and-go par levels, if you have grab-and-goes and not over merchandising. You want to make sure that your food looks good but not put excessive amounts of food out if you have buffets and steam tables and things like that. Often people will put out really deep pans and full pans, and they want to make sure they have the same food available at the end of the meal period that they did at the beginning, which is a great practice because you don’t want customers to be disappointed. But that can lead to a lot of leftover food, so going to smaller pans, half pans, third pans, shallower pans can make a big difference.
Another area to look at is catering practices, and this is an area that is a little bit of a hot button for me. A lot of times we’ll hear people who are involved in the catering, with catering operations say, “Hey, we don’t worry so much about food waste because it’s been paid for, or we can’t change the amount we’re producing because we have a guarantee and it’s in the contract.” And I have some alternate views on that, that regardless of whether food has been paid for in catering the environmental impact is there if we have waste, and so we’ve got to go after it for the environmental reasons.
And truly there’s usually a good business case involved here, as well, because in many cases people have hired us when we’re providing catering to provide a service and to really understand in order to know what the appropriate production needs to be for an event. So as opposed to giving us a shopping list saying, “Bring me a hundred bagels,” they’re saying, “give me a great continental breakfast for a hundred people.” And it’s our job to know how many are going to eat bagels and how many are going to want a full piece of fruit and making sure that we do minimize that waste. So I would just like to raise the industry’s awareness that catering should not be an area that we just sort of accept is going to be a high waste item because it just doesn’t need to be.
And then postconsumer, up to this point I’ve spoken mainly about preconsumer, but postconsumer we have opportunities here, as well. We can look at portions, we can look at our design of whether we go for smaller portions. There’ve been some commercial restaurants that have some pretty good success with different sized portions at lower price points but still maintaining a decent or higher margins.
We can look at our service methods, whether or not we’re allowing people to serve themselves or whether we serve them. That can reduce waste. We can look at plate sizes, if we have a smaller plate people will often put less on it. We can look at our service style. In some cases people are eliminating trays. And, as I mentioned earlier, in like college environments that are all you care to eat and the intent is to encourage people to take only what they can carry which prevents them from loading up a tray with three or four plates and then throwing half of that food away. So there’s things we can do there with service style.
And then guest awareness is – it’s just key to postconsumer, and that’s about putting up table tents and signage and reminding people and encouraging them to consume what they need. And we can also do plate waste studies and look at items that more and less popular. And if we find that a garnish or a side is just always being ignored on a particular menu item we should be looking at changes we can make there.
So that is a quick review through the source reduction alternatives that are available to food service operators. And to summarize the business case for looking at this is extremely compelling. It’s dollars and cents, it’s operational efficiency. The environmental case is extremely compelling. The staff engagement piece is really compelling. And happy to say that there are, indeed, tools that are available in the operators toolkit to go after this, to do prevention and minimization, and it just has a lot to do with collecting data every day and paying attention to it and making it a part of the culture and focus and the behavior.
So that’s my presentation. I appreciate your attention.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Thank you, Andrew. Excellent, excellent.
A question for you, how does your tracking system translate to municipalities, counties, or states who are trying to track their organics? Is there some way that they can take what they do with your system and for more reportable results, I guess?
Andrew Shakman: Sure. So, you know, everything I just shared today was very much from the perspective of the operator, so in a food service operation that is producing food every day, and that’s an operation where you have maybe a dozen or maybe a hundred people touching food. And so that’s kind of what this sort of tracking is about.
When you talk at a municipal level you’re dealing with more aggregate data, and we think of food waste data in an hourglass shape where the lower portion of the hourglass is the really detailed granular data that the food service team needs to be able to run improvement, and they need that type of detail because they need to know if the eggs with cheese on them are getting thrown-away more than the eggs without cheese. I mean that kind of stuff is going to be really critical at the operations but it doesn’t need to transit up to the top half of the hourglass because that – it’s too much detail for someone who is looking at it at an aggregate level.
And so as you move-up the top of the hourglass that’s where we really start to look at more just a handful of summary statistics. And the food waste tracking that LeanPath does, our systems definitely will produce summaries, statistics, and even if you’re tracking it with Excel you can produce these. But the key ones you want to look at are waste as a percentage of food purchases because, back to the earlier conversation, that’s a volume adjusted metric, so regardless of how much volume you have in your operation you want to know what’s your waste as a number against that. You can see then if you’re in a steady state or things are improving and you can also benchmark that waste as a percentage of food purchases.
The other thing you can look at is waste per meal served, and that can be an interesting unit base metric. And often what will happen is food service operators will be tracking food cost per meal served because that’s one of their key operating metrics, and what we encourage people to do is to compare their food cost per meal and then correlate that to what’s going on with waste reduction. And often what you will find if not pretty – I mean it’s actually very consistent what you will find is when you initiate a source reduction program you will see a drop in food waste by dollars, as well as by pounds, but you will also in your food cost per meal you will see a drop, as well. Not always, it’s not magic, it’s not like you just track and it magically occurs, you do have to use the data. But when you use the data it really works.
And so one of the things that we didn’t – I didn’t get a chance to mention today but I should mention is that when you’re tracking that data you do have to make it very visible. You’ve got to put it up on the wall in the kitchen. You’ve got to talk about it at pre-shift meetings and huddle-ups. And the single most important thing you can do is set goals for improvement.
And I think Tom really underscored that with his point about their goal over, you know, through 2011. Once you set a goal it puts people in gear. And in the case of food waste tracking you can set very granular goals, smart goals. And by smart I’m referring to specific measureable, actionable, realistic and time bound.
And so if you find that your top food waste item is soup then by all means you will set a goal that says we’re going to cut our soup waste in half in the next six weeks, and then you have your team talk about that every day or every week at pre-shift meetings and inevitably when people are talking about it they will find innovative ways to reduce soup waste. And then you move on to the next goal while continuing to monitor your progress on your prior goals. And so by doing that you can make some pretty significant dent in the waste equation.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Right. A question from Shelly says, “What is the minimum size of operation for food tracking to be typically cost effective, especially when staff is more expensive than raw product?”
Andrew Shakman: Great point there. So, first of all, we’ve found that food waste tracking does not add any labor. I mean when we’ve studied automated tracking systems the impact for an employee is about 3.8 minutes per week, so well under a minute a day for the average employee, so it’s just like hand washing, nobody is adding labor to do hand washing, it’s just an expected part of the operation. And so the same thing can be said of food waste, because you’re already scraping the pan out, you’re already carrying it to a disposal site. This is a five-second process to capture some data on a piece of paper or on an automated system.
That said, when we talk about 4% to 10% of food purchases ending up as preconsumer food waste we’ve looked into that data and we’ve stratified it by the size of operation. And what’s fascinating is that the smaller the operation the higher they tend to appear on that grid, so that smaller operations tend to have more waste as a percentage of food purchases. And that makes some sense because they have less efficiency, they may be running fewer meal periods, they may have less chance to utilize product that’s left over.
And so even if you’re a smaller operation in many cases your relative food waste problem is bigger. And so my perspective on it is even the smallest operations it makes sense to track, and you do get some benefit because if you’re smaller you’re going to have fewer items to track, just actually like physically the number of items should be less than if you’re in a really big place. So I encourage everybody to do it.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Okay, Patrick, are we close to running out of time or do we have time for one more question?
Patrick Jones: We have time for about several more questions. We have about six minutes left in our allotment.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Okay, how does your system interface with other food service systems or national systems? I was wondering how it interfaces or if it does interface, at all, with something like EPA’s WasteWise system? If you know about that?
Andrew Shakman: Yes, definitely know about it. So I’ve been, you know, all of my comments today I’ve tried to be very generic about sort of how one approaches it. Specific to LeanPath Systems we’ve studied integration opportunities with a variety of commercial automation systems, and our take on it is that the integration that needs to happen for the most part is at the upper portion of that hourglass. It’s those handful of key metrics, and those are very easy for people to move over. And so there hasn’t been a whole lot of need for like a ton of IT automation around it.
We’ve looked at it, and we continue to review it several times a year. But what we’re finding is that people who are doing food waste tracking on a daily basis, at least in the case of using LeanPath Systems, are not asking for further integration. They’re finding that those key metrics are easy to move. And the granular metrics, the ones that kind of run their ground game, are sort of appropriately placed in a waste reporting kind of sub ledger.
Mary Beth Van Pelt: Okay, I’m going to turn it over to you now, Patrick. And thank you very much, Andrew. Very interesting topics from both of our speakers, and I want to thank you both for taking the time from your schedules to share your ideas and the information from your Companies on organics management, which is a huge issue, a huge issue. And we all are trying not to build more landfills, and this just seems one of the best ways to divert materials away from them.
And, most of all, we’d like to thank all of you for dialing into this month’s RCC Web Academy. And it’s you that this program is designed for, so make sure that you complete our survey and give us feedback on how we can meet your needs.
And a little advertisement here, the next RCC Web Academy session will be on sustainable materials management, so sign-up for that. It’ll be on Thursday, January 20th, and it’ll start at one p.m. Eastern time.
And just remember that the work that you’re doing, all of you are doing no matter what your industry is has the potential to make a real quantifiable impact on our environment and our society.
And back to you, Patrick.